Why do we carve designs into pumpkins? Did you know it has Christian roots?
The tradition of Jack-O-Lanterns came to the USA from the way of our Irish immigrants. Did you know that the original Jack-O-Lanterns were carved into beets, turnips & potatoes?
Like most traditions it starts with a myth, a story created to warn children to behave or you’ll end up like poor “Stingy Jack”.
“Stingy Jack” was an Irish man that loved playing tricks on people and thought he could outsmart the devil. It all started when he invited Mr. Satan to sit next to him and have a drink. Being the stingy guy he was, he talked the devil into paying for the drinks.
He challenged Satan to turn himself into a coin that Jack would use to pay for the drinks, Coin in hand Jack left the bar tab unpaid and put the coin in his pocket, next to a silver cross. This of course trapped the Devil from changing back.
Jack laughed at his joke. He thought he was so smart for tricking the Devil. Making a deal, he finally allowed the Devil free of the coin, with a vow that the Devil could not claim his soul.
A year later, just to prove how smart he was, Jack tricked the Devil into climbing a tree for a piece of fruit on one of the highest branches. The Devil’s pride once again had him falling for Jack’s ploy. While Satan reached for the fruit, Jack carved a cross into the trunk, trapping the Devil once again.
This time he made the Devil promise not to bother him for ten years. Before the decade was up though, Jake died.
Now the story tells of Jake’s true fate. God, not pleased with how Jack had chosen to spend his life, would not allow him into heaven. If he wanted to play with the Devil than the Devil could have him.
Of course the Devil had vowed not to claim Jack’s soul, so he was left with no where to go. Sent out into the darkness with nothing but a lump of burning coal that he carried in a carved out turnip. Jack wondered the earth looking for someone to play a trick on.
The Irish refer to him as “Jack of the Lantern” of course being Irish, it became Jack O’Lantern. Throughout Ireland and Scotland families started making their own versions of Jack-O-Lanterns by carving spooky designs into turnips and beets.
They placed them on window edges and next to doors in order to keep bad spirits away.
When the immigrants arrived to the shores of the new country they shared their stories and traditions. Soon they discovered that the native fruit, pumpkin, made a perfect canvas for the artistic carvings.
Any good story told has a moral, a lesson to learn, so next time you see a Jack-O-Lantern remember that pride will get you in trouble and never try to outsmart the devil. It will always lead to misfortune.
Do you have a family story that is told as a warning?